This post is about Sanjay. Not Sanjay Dutt. Not Sanjay Leela Bhansali. Not Sanjay Manjrekar either. This post is about (the) Sanjay of Mahabharat, the charioteer/advisor/servant/commentator of Dhritarashtra. In history, Sanjays have never received their due credit. They can expect to get credit only in fiction, like Sanjay Lal Sharma cycled his way to glory for Model High School and finally received his share of credit. But real-life Sanjays? Never! Sanjay of Mahabharat is also one of those unfortunate real-life Sanjays.
Our Sanjay has never been as ‘elaborately’ discussed as the other characters for a variety of reasons:
- He was not a Kaurav, Pandav, Yadav or Kuru.
- He was not even a deva, asura, yaksha, rakshas, gandharva or naga. He was a simple human being.
- When he was born, there was no storm, no rain and no prophecy. His is a rare example in the epic of a completely normal birth.
My interest in writing about him, however, is fueled by the following:
- He is the first live commentator world has ever seen. He narrated the happenings of multiple matches on one vast ground at once without any help of rolling cameras, repeat telecasts and score-board. He is much older than Geoffrey Boycott, much more effective than Ravi Shastri and much more metaphorical than Navjot Singh Sidhu.
- He was lucky (/worthy) enough to get the opportunity of seeing the cosmic form of Krishna.
- Even not being a Kshatriya by birth, he followed their ideals in a better way than any of them did.
He is one person who came into the (photo) frame of Kuru family when Dhritarasthra’s charioteer Adirath applied for an adoption leave to bring up a child he found in the river, swaddled in supreme garments and bedecked with celestial armour and earrings. Once his leave was approved it was required to replace him with someone equally skilled. Bheeshma, Kripacharya and Vidhur conducted a recruitment process and after a round of interviews found Sanjay worthy enough for the post. He had displayed astute understanding of his duties and responsibilities; he also very well realized the grave importance of his decision-making as the king’s charioteer.
Soon enough, Sanjay became the confidant of the blind king, knowing more than anybody what was going on in his mind. He took the king for occasional outings, political meetings and social gatherings driving his chariots effortlessly on the muddy pathways of Hastinapur and adjoining areas. Every time the king would face a dilemma, Sanjay would help him introspect with valid examples from scriptures, nature and philosophy; never forcing the king for a decision but enabling him to take one at his own will. In this context, he was a lot different from the trio of formal uber-qualified advisors.
When it came to the art of balancing, Sanjay had no close competitors. The nearest would be Jeetendra, who quite well managed to balance multiple wives for over a decade during 80s; but even he would fall a mile short of our hero. Sanjay balanced the interests of his king and the kingdom well. (Hastinapur, as we all know, had for long been unfortunate, having kings whose personal interests polar opposites of her interests!).
- When Dhritarashtra shooed away Vidhur following his bitter truths and suggestions (that were in Dhritarashtra’s own interest but he was ‘blind’ to see through), Sanjay was assigned the task to assuage Vidhur and bring him back to the king.
- During the peace negotiations when the king had to send the most critical message to Pandavs, again, Sanjay was the most favoured choice. The king, and everybody else, believed that only Sanjay could articulate to the Pandavs in the politest manner the ruthless message of not giving back Indraprastha.
- When the war finally dawned, Sanjay agreed to view it on behalf of the king and accepted the post of the commentator for what would be the longest match in the history of test-cricket, the one on a much larger ground, with much deadlier stakes, much higher spirits and much brutal examples of rule-breaking (including ball tampering, with due respect to the Sun god). Sanjay continued the commentary till the end, without taking sides, telling nothing but the Truth. Maybe, it was this dedication of his towards his duty that God found him worthy of witnessing His conversation with Arjun and His cosmic form.
After the war, when years later Dhritarashtra retired to the forest with Gandhari, Vidhur and Kunti, Sanjay accompanied his king and served him till he too finally died in that forest fire that engulfed the senior Kurus. Though Dhritarashtra was nothing like Ram, Sanjay’s dedication towards his master was no less than Hanuman’s.
Sanjay is not just another character, but a lesson for every human being (including a lesson in commentary for the likes of Arun Lal) – Sanjay is a lesson in dedication towards duty, a lesson in the ability to communicate truth, howsoever bitter, with polite effectiveness. He is a lesson in balancing organization goals and departmental goals, interests of the kingdom and that of the king. He is a lesson in doing the right thing and sticking to it even in a world where everything else is going wrong.